Story at a glance
- The federal government has so far approved the assistance of 100 firefighters to travel abroad over a span of four weeks.
- This has not been done since the 2010 Australia bushfires.
- U.S. firefighters are expected to serve deployments lasting 30 days, fighting alongside Canadian and Australian firefighters.
As fires continue to ravage the southeastern coast of Australia, the U.S. has deployed approximately 100 firefighters to help Australia combat the blazes.
The wildfires are still raging, having already destroyed a reported 12 million acres since September.
The National Interagency Fire Center stated that 32 fire personnel have been assigned to help aid Australia on Dec. 27 to the states most affected, namely New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
Now, the L.A. Times reports that an estimated total of 100 firefighters have been sent abroad to help quell the blazes over the past four weeks and that 50 to 60 will be deployed by next Monday.
About 16 of those firefighters hail from California, which has seen a tumultuous past few years of wildfires across the state.
The earliest reported U.S. personnel aid was sent to Australia to coordinate firefighting efforts, which led to the Dec. 5 deployment of 21 U.S. firefighters to assist with Australia firefighting efforts. This initiative was organized between the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service.
Jeff Rupert, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire director, said that “This exchange demonstrates the value of our arrangement for mutual wildland fire support with Australia. It’s a valuable tool for both countries as we face increasingly complex and challenging fires.”
A second and third delegation of firefighters left to help on Dec. 19 and last Monday respectively, followed by more groups, which will also work alongside Canadian firefighters. Eighty-seven Canadian wildfire experts are expected to be in Australia by Jan. 4, according to reports.
The U.S. deployments are expected to last around 30 days.
The Australian fires have displaced thousands of families and individuals, with at least 20 being confirmed dead. On Tuesday, 4,000 residents of the coastal town of Mallacoota, Victoria, were evacuated.
International support comes as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the affected southern areas of the continent, where he was met with criticism over a perceived lack of government funding and support, as well as political stances that residents feel have enabled the fires to continue to burn at an unprecedented rate.